Posted Tuesday, January 19, 2021 by Team Northwoods

Can't Miss Conferences for Human Services in 2021

Over the past five years, this blog post has become a go-to resource for readers looking for information about the best industry conferences to keep up to date on key issues, trends, and topics impacting human services.  

Well, like many things, COVID-19 forced many of the conferences and events we would typically recommend to cancel or transition to virtual events last year. Since things are still uncertain as we head into the new year, many organizations are still figuring out their plans for moving forward. The good news is, a lot of virtual events and learning opportunities have also emerged to fill the void. 


This year may look a little different, but we still want to provide some recommendations to help you find the best events to fill your schedule
in person or virtually. We’ll continue to update this list throughout the year as new information and opportunities become available. 

Virtual Events

  1. APHSA's Third Thursday
  2. Government Technology's Virtual Digital Government Summits
  3. CWLA 2021 Virtual Conference
  4. NextGen Government Training Virtual Summit
  5. Child Welfare Virtual Expo


  1. NYPWA Summer Conference
  2. HSFo Annual Conference
  3. APHSA's ISM Conference
  4. CWDA Annual Conference


  1. APHSA
  2. Government Technology
  3. Northwoods


APHSA's Third Thursday

  • Who? State and local health and human services professionals
  • What? A virtual mini-series of health and human services collective learning
  • When? The third Thursday of every month, January-June 2021 
  • Where? Virtual
  • Why? In lieu of holding the annual APHSA National Health and Human Services Summit in June, APHSA is planning these monthly events to bring HHS policy, practice, and program together. We’re looking forward to these virtual sessions that will showcase best practices and lessons learned from COVID-19, focusing on agency management in child welfare, SNAP, TANF, IT, performance management, and child care 
  • Related link: Prioritizing Technology in Human Services and Preparing for What May Be Next [Lessons from COVID-19] 
  • Learn more: Visit APHSA’s Third Thursday website for additional information 


Government Technology's Virtual Digital Government Summits

  • Who? Federal, state, and local government leaders
  • What? Virtual events in 38 different regions in 2021 that deliver content tailored to the unique challenges confronting each jurisdiction
  • When? Throughout 2021
  • Where? Virtual
  • Why? These digital government summits bring government leaders together to interact with one another and to hear more about new ideas and the most effective technology solutions for evolving government services. Since these summits are unique to each region, we know attendees receive targeted information and ideas to help facilitate digital evolution.
  • Related link: Investing in Essential Technology and Remote Connection in Child Welfare 
  • Learn more: Visit Government Technology’s website for additional information 


CWLA 2021 Virtual Conference

  • Who? Child and family program administrators; agency leadership; policy and research professionals; caregivers and community partners. 
  • What? Celebrates leadership in creating and advancing standards of practice, advocacy, and information-sharing to enhance the well-being of children and families.
  • When? May 4-6
  • Where? Virtual
  • Why? Since last year’s CWLA conference was canceled due to COVID-19, we're looking forward connecting with attendees again this year! Sessions at this conference bring together policy, research, and practice professionals to share and advance child welfare practice across the country. 
  • Related link: How Electronic Case Files Help Caseworkers Put Families First [Mesa County DHS Case Study]  
  • Learn more: Visit CWLA's website for additional information
NextGen Government Training Virtual Summit
  • Who? New, growing, and motivated public servants 
  • What? This virtual summit is all about inspiring government innovation and making positive changes happen. There are sessions and trainings for both those new to government roles and managers looking to help develop and retain new talent.
  • When? August 4-5
  • Where? Virtual
  • Why? To adapt to the new normal caused by COVID-19, government agencies are getting creative with their funds and technology solutions. This training summit focuses on innovation and moving government agencies forward.
  • Related link: The Cost of Doing Nothing: How Inaction Can Hurt Human Services
  • Learn more: Visit NextGen’s website for additional information
Child Welfare Virtual Expo
  • Who? Child welfare professionals from federal, state, tribal, and local organizations
  • What? A virtual expo featuring national experts, providing attendees with information and discussions on a timely child welfare topic 
  • When? TBA (September)
  • Where? Virtual
  • Why? This expo has always been a virtual event, so they have the format figured out! It is a one-day event full of online activities and virtual discussions for child welfare professionals. Every year, this expo focuses on one specific topic and sessions are tailored to address all aspects of the chosen topic. We look forward to hearing what they will choose for 2021!
  • Related link: Child Welfare Agencies Can’t Live Without Traverse. Here’s Why.
  • Learn more: Coming soon

New York Public Welfare Association's (NYPWA) Annual Summer Conference

  • NYPWA SummerWho? New York's local and state social services agency administrators
  • What? Promotes the exchange of ideas, development of new initiatives, and refinement of existing programs and services among New York’s 58 local departments of social services, state government agencies, and other organizations.
  • When? July 18-21
  • Where? Saratoga Springs, NY
  • Why? New York's commissioners share our commitment to innovation and helping agencies leverage new technology to make the biggest impact on the community. This year, we're excited to (hopefully!) see everyone in person again and to share updates on the projects we have underway with Cayuga, Chautauqua, Jefferson, Onondaga, Madison, and Seneca counties.
  • Related links: Resources for child welfare in New York; Resources for lobby management
  • Learn more: Visit NYPWA's website for additional information 

National Association of State Human Services Finance Officers Organization (HSFo) Annual Conference

  • Who? State and local finance professionals; federal officials and policy-makers
  • What? Exchanging ideas, learning from each other's successes, and blending best practices related to changes in federal and state policies and regulations.
  • When? August 1-5
  • Where? San Antonio, TX
  • Why? We know that budgets and finance are an ongoing challenge in human services, especially when it comes to purchasing technology. This conference provides a wealth of knowledge and ideas that we can share with agencies when they need help.
  • Related link: Technology Toolkit: An Essential Buyer's Guide for Human Services
  • Learn more: Visit HSFo's website for additional information

APHSA’s IT Solutions Management (ISM) for Human Services

  • Northwoodians at ISM 2018Who? Agency directors, program administrators, IT directors, technology partners, and federal/state officials
  • What? Brings together federal, state, local, and private sector thought leaders to discuss lessons learned, emerging issues, and key trends relating to HHS technology. For the 2021 conference, APHSA is planning a hybrid conference, allowing both in-person and virtual attendance. 
  • When? September 26-29
  • Where? Cincinnati, OH
  • Why? ISM is hands down one of our favorite events to hear from partners and industry experts about the most important IT topics and innovations impacting human services.
  • Related link: How to Mitigate Risk, Maximize Results with New Human Services Technology
  • Learn more: Visit the ISM website or find more information about all of APHSA's conferences and events


County Welfare Directors Association (CWDA) of California Annual Conference

  • Northwoods helps California social services agencies keep up with complex demandsWho? California child welfare agency directors, program managers, and supervisors
  • What? Promotes innovation and encourages attendees to expand their approaches to best serving children, families, and aging individuals
  • When? TBA (October)
  • Where? TBA
  • Why? This is another good opportunity to hear about digital, forward-thinking strategies and ideas to improve service delivery across the continuum of care. Last year’s conference was virtual, so we’re looking forward to seeing attendees in person in 2021. We're excited to show how our solutions can help California agencies use a person's entire history to help shape their future, plus provide updates on our work with Monterey, Ventura, and Yuba counties.
  • Related link: Resources for child welfare in California
  • Learn more: Visit CWDA's website for additional information



  • APHSA: APHSA works with industry leaders, federal, state, and local agency representatives, and strategic industry partners on live and on demand webinars for health and human services professionals. 
  • Government Technology: Government Technology has a number of live webinars scheduled in 2021 and on demand webinars available focused on all things IT and technology for government agencies.
  • Northwoods: Northwoods is constantly adding webinars to our website! All of the webinars we create are available on demand so that you can watch them anytime, anywhere for free.


What other conferences are on your radar this year? Let us know in the comments. You can also visit our website to see a full list of national and state-specific conferences we’re planning to attend each quarter.


Subscribe to Northwoods' blog for human services